With the proliferation of artist-run spaces in Auckland, along with occasional offshore extensions (see our previous posting on HIRSCHFELD), it's timely to look back to Teststrip, the great artist-run space that continues to influence the development of publicly funded contemporary art spaces as well as artist-run spaces in New Zealand.
In 1992 eight artists (a mix of recent graduates and more experienced artists) frustrated with the lack of exhibiting opportunities from public institutions and dealer galleries took on the lease of a modest floor at 10 Vulcan Lane in the heart of Auckland's CBD and opened Teststrip gallery with a group show of their work. The collective followed this with a series of solo shows and short-run publications. Encouraged by the response they resolved to extend the programme by inviting other artists to exhibit in exchange for a nominal fee to help pay the rent. At the end of 1994, due to the growing gentrification of the CBD, Teststrip was forced to move to a new building at 454 Karangahape Road, Newton, which gave the opportunity for the collective to reconsider opportunities. With funding from Creative New Zealand the group upgraded the two-gallery space, formalised the publication series – the Teststrip micrographs, employed an administrator and worked with a designer to develop a graphic identity. Teststrip broadened the kind of projects they undertook in particular working with Australian artists and curators and holding a series of shows by Los Angeles artists. In their final year the collective strengthened their connection to the wider arts community with the inclusion of music, theatre events and exhibitions of work in jewellery and ceramics. The Teststrip model has influenced subsequent artist-run spaces around New Zealand and several members are still part of these collectives. From the introduction to Teststrip: a history of an artist-run space (1992-1997), published by Clouds (The book can be purchased from Clouds. Price: NZD50)
Image courtesy of Clouds